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Sound card feature

There's a revolution going on in the high street. People with no musical experience can now write and record songs. All you require is a PC, a sound card... and MT's definitive guide. Ian Waugh is your dealer.


The explosion in the soundcard market has given many computer users the opportunity to get involved in serious music-making for the first time. For others it's been the source of frustration as they struggled to get their CPUs to talk to a new system extension. For those looking to buy a sound card, there is also confusion over which card to choose and what kind of quality to expect. Here with help for one and all is Ian Waugh...

Voyetra's Audio View software includes a wave editor, audio mixer and CD- ROM controller and works with a wide range of PC sound cards.

Connectivity - that's the name of the game. Impressive as they may be, modern computers can't do everything. Not without a bit of help. PCs and Apple Macs, for example, contain internal slots capable of taking an enormous range of plugin cards to help them perform other functions.

The PC is the most expandable of all computers, and cards available include modems (for communicating with other computers), scanner cards, and maths cards (for speeding up mathematical calculations). Most PCs already have some slots taken up with a card to control their hard disk and a video display card which produces the picture you see on the monitor.

The Sound Blaster Mixer programs lets you balance the parts of your sound system.

There is also a wide range of cards to interest musicians and people working in multimedia. Video capture cards (not to be confused with video display cards) let you store video clips on disk for editing. And, of course, there are sound cards. These started life as a means of adding synthesised sounds to the PC (which otherwise only has a paltry single-sound beep), primarily for games, but they have now developed into veritable jacks-of-all-trades with facilities such as digital recording and playback, and also interfacing for MIDI and CD-ROM players. Some use quite sophisticated forms of synthesis and are capable of high-quality digital recording.


Apple Macs have card slots, too. The most well-known is the NuBus slot, but the LC family have PDS slots which, though taking up less space, work in a similar way. These are used for coprocessors to speed up maths functions, graphics cards for special video displays and networking cards for connecting the Mac to other Macs or a PC. Most of the Mac sound cards are used for digital recording. As far as I am aware there are currently no Mac cards containing sounds (other than Sample Cell II which is more akin to a sampler), but please put me right on this one if there are.

The Gravis Ultrasound includes a Patch Manager which lets you audition and load sounds into Ultrasound's RAM.

As with most things Mac, you can usually plug a card into your computer, boot your application and start using it. As with all things PC, plugging in cards isn't likely to be as straightforward...

PCs have 8-bit and 16-bit card slots. You can easily see which is which because 16-bit slots are longer than 8-bit ones (most PCs with 16-bit slots also have at least one 8-bit slot) and there is a small gap between the rows of connectors. You can use most 8-bit cards in a 16-bit slot quite happily. Stereo sound cards and cards with 16-bit sampling resolution will be 16-bit cards.

Ultrasound can record and edit digital audio although 16-bit recording is an optional extra.

But plugging the card in is the easy bit. You then have to configure it. Depending on the card's facilities this could involve you in port addresses, DMA and IRQ settings. It's all part of the process of telling the computer exactly where the sound card is in relation to the system and it could be argued that this simply reflects the PC's flexibility, but it's a flexibility that can lead you into problems - problems which the Mac user doesn't have to worry about as everything is taken care of automatically.

If you don't have any other devices in your PC, you may be able to simply plug in and go. However, like as not you'll have to change at least some of these settings. The better software supplied with the cards lets you test the system and make changes through the program - although if there is a conflict (that is, if another card is using the same IRQ or DMA channel), it's not always easy to track down. Settings can also usually be changed on the card itself using DIP switches or by changing the position of jumper pins.

The Sound Blaster 16 includes basic but usable wave editing software.

When you've got that working you then have to install some drivers to control the card. There will be different drivers for DOS and Windows applications. Usually installation is fairly easy although this depends on the installation routines supplied. The ethos behind Windows means that an application does not have to know exactly what is connected to the system. It simply talks to the driver and the driver sends the necessary instructions to the hardware. Windows comes with several drivers which you can see in the Drivers section of the Control Panel.


There are two main PC sound-card standards, both named after the cards that started the trend. The Ad Lib card was taken as the standard for music and most sound cards support this. The Sound Blaster added digital audio and the ability to play back sampled speech and sound effects. It's also backwards compatible with the Ad Lib card and unless your budget is limited, Sound Blaster compatibility should be your aim. But sound-card technology moves on and more sophisticated standards are starting to appear. Sound Blaster Pro offers 20-voice stereo sound and many games now have this as an option. Look for Pro compatibility if you're serious about your games.

Software in the Pro Audio Spectrum pack lets you create your own effects.

The other emerging standard is GM (General MIDI) and some cards contain a set of GM sounds which can be particularly useful for the muso on a budget - GM and digital recording in one package.

But given that most of these cards cost well under £200, just what kind of audio quality are we talking about here? Well, this is where the cracks begin to show. Most of the cheaper cards use the Yamaha YM3812, a 2-operator FM chip, which may be adequate for games but it would hardly pass muster even at a karaoke night. Cards with the Yamaha OPL3 chip are noticeably better although it's still FM and well below current state-of-the-art sound synthesis. Still, it is GM-compatible and that must earn it a few extra brownie points.

Wave for Windows is a highly graphic dedicated piece of waveform-editing software.


If you want sounds more in keeping with today's standards then you need to look at wavetable synthesis cards such as the Orchid Soundwave 32, the Gravis Ultrasound and the Wave Blaster add-on as well as the Roland SCC-1 and the Turtle Beach cards. The Multisound card, for example, contains the equivalent of a Proteus 1/XR synth!

Digital audio, again, was originally developed for games and based around 8-bit sampling but the development of stereo 16-bit cards supporting sample rates up to 44.1 KHz raised the quality, certainly to that of good demo standards. If you compare these with dedicated digital audio systems it must be remembered that sound cards are called upon to do several tasks while digital audio systems are designed to do one job well and usually include additional hardware to do it. Dedicated systems will have superior digital converters so the sound quality is bound to be better.

As with most things, you get what you pay for, but if you are on a budget sound cards really are worth considering.

Where most of the cards fall down is the recording software which is not as sophisticated as dedicated software such as Turtle Beach's Wave for Windows, Voyetra's Audio View or Innovative's SAW. Still, you can often use this software with a card of your choice. SAW, for example (watch out for a review in MT very soon), is compatible with the Sound Blaster ASP.

If you want to move more upmarket, there are several dedicated digital audio cards to choose from for both the PC and the Mac. PC cards such as the CardD+ and the Turtle Beach cards are still very affordable and capable of producing excellent results.

Jargon BUSTER

Digital audio: the process of converting sound to digital data and then converting it back to audio data for playback. While in digital format it can be stored in the computer's memory or, in the case of digital recording, on a hard disk.

DMA: Direct Memory Access lets a card communicate directly with the PC's memory (the name says it all) without having to go through the computer's processor. This speeds up operations and allows several tasks to be performed concurrently.

DSP: Digital Signal Processor, a chip designed specifically to process data quickly. Typically used to perform real-time digital effects.

IRQ: an Interrupt ReQuest is issued by a device connected to a PC to ask the computer to perform a certain task. A sound card, for example, may want some more music data for playing. Each card must have a different IRQ otherwise messages end up going to the wrong devices and the computer will probably crash.

Port address: a PC may have several I/O (Input/Output) ports or sockets which are assigned a number - the address - so the computer can distinguish one card from another when sending and receiving data. If this is not set correctly the computer won't be able to communicate with the card.

S/PDIF: Sony/Philips Digital Interface Format. A standard used for transferring digital data, used in many DATs and samplers.

SCSI: Small Computer Serial Interface, a standard used to connect devices such as a CD-ROM or hard disk to a computer. SCSI-2 transfers data faster, but connected devices must support it.

WAV: the standard digital audio format of Windows sound files.

YM3812: the original sound chip used in the Ad Lib card and compatibles. It's a two-operator FM chip with four waveforms and 11-note polyphony. Crude by modern synthesis standards - but cheap!

Yamaha OPL3: a more advanced FM chip with eight waveforms capable of producing six 4-operator voices or 18 2-operator ones. Still not state-of-the-art, but GM-compatible which makes it more useful to musicians.


Pick a card...

If you want a sound card primarily for games then a bog-standard 8-bit card with Ad Lib and Sound Blaster compatibility will do the job. However, 8-bit digital sound leaves a lot to be desired, and anyone trying to record a song demo or put a quality multimedia production together would be advised to go for a 16-bit card. Make sure that the card can both record and play back at 44 or 44.1 KHz - some may be able to play back at that speed but only record at 22KHz, for example. And if you want stereo, make sure this is supported, too.

Several cards are GM-compatible and if this is important to you check the sound quality carefully. Cards using wavetable synthesis will have better-quality sounds than those using FM. For high-end use you may want to look at music cards such as the Roland SCC-1 and the Turtle Beach range or daughter board cards such as the Wave Blaster which add a Proteus to sound cards capable of taking a daughter board. If your main requirement is for digital audio, look at the dedicated recording cards - although some of the top-end 16-bit cards perform very well, too, so don't ignore them. You should have few compatibility problems with dedicated cards but you won't get all the typical sound card extras with them.

There are several dozen PC sound cards on the market and more appear every month. We reckon most MT readers will want quality so we've prepared a table listing the pertinent features of a range of 16-bit cards plus dedicated digital audio cards for the Mac and PC. However, for the games players among us - c'mon, stand up, show us where you are - we've compiled a shorter list of 8-bit cards. As with any musical purchase, do try before you buy and check the prices. Most PC cards, for example, are considerably cheaper 'on the street' than the RRPs quoted on 'Current sound card' table overleaf.


A bit on the side

As well as making a noise, most sound cards can perform additional hardware functions and many packages include lots of bits of software. Here's a list of some typical extras...

Joystick and/or MIDI connector. Most require an adaptor cable which terminates in MIDI sockets but this can be cheaper than buying a separate MIDI interface. However, if you have compatibility problems with the card, this could affect MIDI performance, too.

Line and Mic In. All cards with recording facilities will have at least one of these. Most have both but if you want to record line level signals, you know what to look for.

CD-ROM interface. This can be very useful - especially if you want to add a CD-ROM drive - as you save money on the cost of a separate interface. However, there are three types - Sony, Panasonic and Mitsumi - so make sure the card and your prospective CD-ROM are compatible.

SCSI interface. Some cards have a SCSI interface fitted, with others it's an optional extra. Adding SCSI to a card will save one of the slots in your PC. However, if you have problems with the card or decide to upgrade it later, you'll have to let the SCSI interface go, too. You can use a SCSI interface to attach a CD-ROM drive - providing, of course, that it's a SCSI drive and not a proprietary type.

Mini speakers. These are a popular inclusion in PC sound card packs but the quality of most is pretty terrible. Don't pay extra for speakers unless you've heard them.

Mic. Again, you get what you pay for. Useful if you don't have a Mic but don't expect a Sennheiser.

Software. All cards should come with some software even if it's just a set-up routine and a couple of naff DOS applications. Goodies to look out for include a MIDI file player, perhaps a sequencer, a waveform editor, a mixer and a voice-recognition system. You may also get a couple of games to show off the sound and possibly a multimedia CD. Such bundles can really add value to the pack.


Is it compatible?

The most thorny issue surrounding PC sound cards is the question of compatibility. The first problem faced by users is installing the card and actually getting it to work with their PC. A complete novice may well be baffled by the setup options although a good manual will take you through the procedure step-by-step. Unfortunately, not all cards come with good manuals.

Then there's the question of software compatibility. Most cards emulate the Sound Blaster and the majority do a creditable job, although some seem to be more compatible than others. I'd be very surprised if there was not at least one program which every card did not work with. Unfortunately, some cards don't work with many programs. Part of the problem may be traced to the card's software emulation, but some blame may also be down to your PC. In spite of the fact that all PCs these days are so-called IBM PC-compatible, the truth is that all PCs are not equal. They are constructed from many parts, sourced from different suppliers and put together in different ways. Communication between different parts of the machine takes place at different speeds through a variety of busses and in a way, it's a testimony to the robustness of the basic PC design that the things can run such a range of software at all!

And, of course, the music routines in the software may have been optimised for an emulation different to your own. It all adds up to a potential compatibility nightmare. Of course, the vast majority of users buy a sound card, plug it in and have no trouble at all, but I do know that there are a lot people who never get their cards working to their full satisfaction. I even know a fellow writer, and no slouch with the PC, who totally failed to get a sound card working on one of his PCs - yet it worked faultlessly on another. The moral of the story is simply to be aware that compatibility problems can arise. Tell the supplier what sort of PC you have and ask if they will replace the card or refund your money if it doesn't work. If anyone has experienced sound card compatibility problems, please drop us an line and tell us about it. If you are having a problem, the place to start looking for a solution is the card manufacturer or distributor - although even they might not know all the answers. Correspondence on the subject is welcomed. And by the way, there's no such thing as a 'standard' PC.


CURRENT SOUND CARDS

Key to emulations abbreviations: AL = Ad Lib, SB = Sound Blaster, SBP = Sound Blaster Pro, GM = General MIDI

8-bit PC cards

Card Price Supplier Emulations Sample rate (kHz) Comment
Sound Commander EX £46.00 Comsol Systems AL/SB 44.1/44.1 Joystick and MIDI ports; pack includes speakers.
Orchid Sound Producer £49.00 Orchid AL/SB 22/22 Includes mini speakers; unpretentious.
Orchid Sound Producer Pro £89.00 Orchid AL/SB/SBP 44.1/44.1 Stereo version of Orchid's Sound Producer using two 8-bit digital/audio converters; includes a Panasonic CD-ROM interface with SCSI as an option.
Sound Blaster 2 Deluxe £65.00 Westpoint Creative AL/SB 44.1/15 The card the rest are modelled on; it may not have all the tinsel but for maximum compatibility, this is the one.
Super Sound Two Plus £75.00 Gallant N/A 50/50 Includes Sony and Panasonic CD ROM interface (Mitsumi available as an option); manual poor.
ATI Stereo FX £79.00 Metrocom AL/SB 15/15 Highly compatible; includes 8W amp for headphones or a small speaker (not supplied).
Sound Galaxy NX Pro Extra £92.83 Silica AL/SB/SBP 44.1/44.1 Includes Panasonic and Mitsumi CD-ROM interface (Sony optional); mic and mini speakers; configurable from software; good quality sound.
Sound Blaster Pro Deluxe £99.00 Westpoint Creative AL/SB/SBP 44.1/44.1 Sound Blaster compatibility in true stereo; 20 voices; includes Panasonic CD-ROM interface and lots of software.
Gallant SC5000 £125.00 Gallant AL/SB/SBP/GM 50/50 Mini speakers and hand-held mic included; Panasonic and Sony CD-ROM interfaces (Mitsumi as an option).

16-bit PC cards

Card Price Supplier Emulations Sample rate (kHz) Comment
Media Vision Pro Audio Spectrum 16 £139.00 Ingram Micro AL/SB/SBP/GM 44.1/44.1 Mitsumi and Panasonic CD-ROM interfaces plus SCSI.
Sound Galaxy NX Pro 16 Extra £151.58 Silica AL/SB/SBP 44.1/44.1 Includes a mic and headphones; Panasonic and Mitsumi CD-ROM interfaces (Sony optional); SCSI optional - software configurable/upgradable to 16-bit wavetable synthesis with Wave Power (£116.33) card.
Advanced Gravis Ultrasound £199.00 Optech AL/SB/GM 44.1/44.1 16-bit playback, 8-bit recording (16-bit recording is optional); CD-ROM interface optional; excellent wavetable sounds; interesting 3D surround sound effect.
Logitech SoundMan 16 £199.00 Logitech AL/SB 44.1 /44.1 A Media Vision Pro Audio 16 (the basic version) clone; easy installation; no CD-ROM interface.
Microsoft Sound System £120.00 Microsoft AL 48/48 More for business than games or music; no Sound Blaster emulation (although a new version will have this); no CD-ROM interface or joystick port; bundled with a Mic and business-oriented software including voice recognition.
Orchid Soundwave 32 £199.00 Orchid AL/SB/GM 44.1/44.1 Uses wavetable synthesis - good sounds; compatible with the Roland MT-32 and Microsoft Sound System; includes speakers; Sony and Mitsumi CD-ROM interfaces.
Orchid Gamewave 32 £175.00 Orchid AL/SB/GM 44.1/NA Similar to the Orchid Soundwave but no recording ability or Sound System emulation; no speakers and comes with less software.
Sound FX 16-Bit £99.00 Bluepoint AL/SB 48/48 Similar to Sound FX Classic 3000 (see below) but without wavetable synthesis; bundled with 2020 Sound Editor and Sound Impression; addition of Wave FX board (£125) effectively turns it into a Classic 3000 (Wave FX package includes Cubase Lite and MIDI cable).
Sound FX Classic 3000 £199.00 Bluepoint AL/SB/GM/GS 48/48 Unique to date in having a GS emulation (although it has no reverb); includes MIDI adaptoOr lead; bundled with Cubase Lite and Sound Impression; supports Sony, Panasonic and Mitsumi CD-ROM interfaces; digital sound quality very good.
Sound Blaster Pro 16 ASP £219.00 Westpoint Creative AL/SB/SBP/GM 44/44 The current top-of-the-range Sound Blaster; ASP (Advanced Signal Processor) improves digital audio speed and includes data compression; Panasonic CD-ROM interface; includes a mic and voice recognition software, a simple animation program and a CD multimedia encyclopedia; FM sound (an OPL3 chip) may be improved by adding a Wave Blaster board.
Cyber Audio Card £249.00 Unica AL/SB/GM 44.1/44.1 Wavetable synthesis offers good sounds; compatibility problems with certain software; includes a SCSI interface and comes with a microphone headset and voice recognition software.
SCC-1 £430.00 Roland AL/SB/GM N/A A Sound Canvas on a card but with none of the recording facilities or extras you expect to find on a games or multimedia card; excellent sound.


CURRENT DIGITAL AUDIO CARDS

PC digital audio cards

Card Price Supplier Comment
Roland ATW-10 £449.00 Roland Package includes the RAP-10 sound card (not available separately) and some excellent, highly graphic edit and arranging software; lets you combine CD tracks, digital audio and MIDI files. (See review in MT February '94).
Digital Audio Labs' CardD £757.00 Digital Music Highly-specified card; software offers 2-track stereo recording at rates up to 48KHz; non-destructive editing and customised fades MIDITasker will trigger sound files via MIDI for audio/MIDI integration; optional I/O card provides S/PDIF support.
Kalix SoundTrax £499.00 Digital Music Records at rates up to 48KHz; includes Ensoniq GM sounds (based on the ASR-10); MPU-401 MIDI interface, four internal DSPs, support for Sony CD ROM and SCSI-2; RAMStore lets you create your own sounds from WAV samples; Ad Lib and Sound Blaster compatible.
Maui £198.00 Et Cetera GM-compatible sound card; 24 voices (wavetable synthesis); SampleStore lets you download samples into the card to create your own sounds; MIDI interface is MPU-401 compatible.
Multisound £468.00 Et Cetera High-quality 16-bit 44.1 KHz recording plus 384 sounds based on the E-mu Proteus; Advanced Hurricane Architecture works up to eight times faster than DMA techniques; GM-compatible.
Tahiti £351.00 Et Cetera As the Multisound card but without the Proteus synthesiser.

Macintosh digital audio cards

Card Price Supplier Comment
Audiomedia II £1202.00 Digidesign Plugs into NuBus slot and offers high-quality stereo 16-bit recording up to 48KHz; analogue Ins and Outs plus S/PDIF; SoundDesigner II software features non-destructive playlist editing plus effects such as compression, pitch shifting, EQ and dynamics; supported by major direct-to-disk software such as Studio Vision, Cubase Audio and Notator Logic Audio.
Audiomedia LC £908.00 Digidesign Similar to Audiomedia II but uses the LC-type PDS slot; no S/PDIF interface; maximum rate of 44.1 KHz.
Sample Cell II £1822.00 Digidesign 16-bit sample player on a NuBus card; eight polyphonic Outs; expandable up to 32Mb RAM; 32 dynamically-assigned voices; over 20 CD-ROM libraries of sounds available.


Contacts

Bluepoint: (Contact Details)
Comsol Systems: (Contact Details)
Digidesign: (Contact Details)
Digital Music: (Contact Details)
Et Cetera: (Contact Details)
Gallant: (Contact Details)
Ingram Micro: (Contact Details)
Logitech: (Contact Details)
Metrocom: (Contact Details)
Microsoft: (Contact Details)
Optech: (Contact Details)
Orchid: (Contact Details)
Roland: 0252 816181
Silica: (Contact Details)
Unica: (Contact Details)
Westpoint Creative: (Contact Details)





Previous Article in this issue

Lost in Trance

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Music Technology - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

 

Music Technology - Apr 1994

Donated & scanned by: Mike Gorman

Topic:

Computing


Feature by Ian Waugh

Previous article in this issue:

> Lost in Trance

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> The A-Z of Analogue


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CURRENT SOUND CARDS

Key to emulations abbreviations: AL = Ad Lib, SB = Sound Blaster, SBP = Sound Blaster Pro, GM = General MIDI

8-bit PC cards

Card Price Supplier Emulations Sample rate (kHz) Comment
Sound Commander EX £46.00 Comsol Systems AL/SB 44.1/44.1 Joystick and MIDI ports; pack includes speakers.
Orchid Sound Producer £49.00 Orchid AL/SB 22/22 Includes mini speakers; unpretentious.
Orchid Sound Producer Pro £89.00 Orchid AL/SB/SBP 44.1/44.1 Stereo version of Orchid's Sound Producer using two 8-bit digital/audio converters; includes a Panasonic CD-ROM interface with SCSI as an option.
Sound Blaster 2 Deluxe £65.00 Westpoint Creative AL/SB 44.1/15 The card the rest are modelled on; it may not have all the tinsel but for maximum compatibility, this is the one.
Super Sound Two Plus £75.00 Gallant N/A 50/50 Includes Sony and Panasonic CD ROM interface (Mitsumi available as an option); manual poor.
ATI Stereo FX £79.00 Metrocom AL/SB 15/15 Highly compatible; includes 8W amp for headphones or a small speaker (not supplied).
Sound Galaxy NX Pro Extra £92.83 Silica AL/SB/SBP 44.1/44.1 Includes Panasonic and Mitsumi CD-ROM interface (Sony optional); mic and mini speakers; configurable from software; good quality sound.
Sound Blaster Pro Deluxe £99.00 Westpoint Creative AL/SB/SBP 44.1/44.1 Sound Blaster compatibility in true stereo; 20 voices; includes Panasonic CD-ROM interface and lots of software.
Gallant SC5000 £125.00 Gallant AL/SB/SBP/GM 50/50 Mini speakers and hand-held mic included; Panasonic and Sony CD-ROM interfaces (Mitsumi as an option).

16-bit PC cards

Card Price Supplier Emulations Sample rate (kHz) Comment
Media Vision Pro Audio Spectrum 16 £139.00 Ingram Micro AL/SB/SBP/GM 44.1/44.1 Mitsumi and Panasonic CD-ROM interfaces plus SCSI.
Sound Galaxy NX Pro 16 Extra £151.58 Silica AL/SB/SBP 44.1/44.1 Includes a mic and headphones; Panasonic and Mitsumi CD-ROM interfaces (Sony optional); SCSI optional - software configurable/upgradable to 16-bit wavetable synthesis with Wave Power (£116.33) card.
Advanced Gravis Ultrasound £199.00 Optech AL/SB/GM 44.1/44.1 16-bit playback, 8-bit recording (16-bit recording is optional); CD-ROM interface optional; excellent wavetable sounds; interesting 3D surround sound effect.
Logitech SoundMan 16 £199.00 Logitech AL/SB 44.1 /44.1 A Media Vision Pro Audio 16 (the basic version) clone; easy installation; no CD-ROM interface.
Microsoft Sound System £120.00 Microsoft AL 48/48 More for business than games or music; no Sound Blaster emulation (although a new version will have this); no CD-ROM interface or joystick port; bundled with a Mic and business-oriented software including voice recognition.
Orchid Soundwave 32 £199.00 Orchid AL/SB/GM 44.1/44.1 Uses wavetable synthesis - good sounds; compatible with the Roland MT-32 and Microsoft Sound System; includes speakers; Sony and Mitsumi CD-ROM interfaces.
Orchid Gamewave 32 £175.00 Orchid AL/SB/GM 44.1/NA Similar to the Orchid Soundwave but no recording ability or Sound System emulation; no speakers and comes with less software.
Sound FX 16-Bit £99.00 Bluepoint AL/SB 48/48 Similar to Sound FX Classic 3000 (see below) but without wavetable synthesis; bundled with 2020 Sound Editor and Sound Impression; addition of Wave FX board (£125) effectively turns it into a Classic 3000 (Wave FX package includes Cubase Lite and MIDI cable).
Sound FX Classic 3000 £199.00 Bluepoint AL/SB/GM/GS 48/48 Unique to date in having a GS emulation (although it has no reverb); includes MIDI adaptoOr lead; bundled with Cubase Lite and Sound Impression; supports Sony, Panasonic and Mitsumi CD-ROM interfaces; digital sound quality very good.
Sound Blaster Pro 16 ASP £219.00 Westpoint Creative AL/SB/SBP/GM 44/44 The current top-of-the-range Sound Blaster; ASP (Advanced Signal Processor) improves digital audio speed and includes data compression; Panasonic CD-ROM interface; includes a mic and voice recognition software, a simple animation program and a CD multimedia encyclopedia; FM sound (an OPL3 chip) may be improved by adding a Wave Blaster board.
Cyber Audio Card £249.00 Unica AL/SB/GM 44.1/44.1 Wavetable synthesis offers good sounds; compatibility problems with certain software; includes a SCSI interface and comes with a microphone headset and voice recognition software.
SCC-1 £430.00 Roland AL/SB/GM N/A A Sound Canvas on a card but with none of the recording facilities or extras you expect to find on a games or multimedia card; excellent sound.


CURRENT DIGITAL AUDIO CARDS

PC digital audio cards

Card Price Supplier Comment
Roland ATW-10 £449.00 Roland Package includes the RAP-10 sound card (not available separately) and some excellent, highly graphic edit and arranging software; lets you combine CD tracks, digital audio and MIDI files. (See review in MT February '94).
Digital Audio Labs' CardD £757.00 Digital Music Highly-specified card; software offers 2-track stereo recording at rates up to 48KHz; non-destructive editing and customised fades MIDITasker will trigger sound files via MIDI for audio/MIDI integration; optional I/O card provides S/PDIF support.
Kalix SoundTrax £499.00 Digital Music Records at rates up to 48KHz; includes Ensoniq GM sounds (based on the ASR-10); MPU-401 MIDI interface, four internal DSPs, support for Sony CD ROM and SCSI-2; RAMStore lets you create your own sounds from WAV samples; Ad Lib and Sound Blaster compatible.
Maui £198.00 Et Cetera GM-compatible sound card; 24 voices (wavetable synthesis); SampleStore lets you download samples into the card to create your own sounds; MIDI interface is MPU-401 compatible.
Multisound £468.00 Et Cetera High-quality 16-bit 44.1 KHz recording plus 384 sounds based on the E-mu Proteus; Advanced Hurricane Architecture works up to eight times faster than DMA techniques; GM-compatible.
Tahiti £351.00 Et Cetera As the Multisound card but without the Proteus synthesiser.

Macintosh digital audio cards

Card Price Supplier Comment
Audiomedia II £1202.00 Digidesign Plugs into NuBus slot and offers high-quality stereo 16-bit recording up to 48KHz; analogue Ins and Outs plus S/PDIF; SoundDesigner II software features non-destructive playlist editing plus effects such as compression, pitch shifting, EQ and dynamics; supported by major direct-to-disk software such as Studio Vision, Cubase Audio and Notator Logic Audio.
Audiomedia LC £908.00 Digidesign Similar to Audiomedia II but uses the LC-type PDS slot; no S/PDIF interface; maximum rate of 44.1 KHz.
Sample Cell II £1822.00 Digidesign 16-bit sample player on a NuBus card; eight polyphonic Outs; expandable up to 32Mb RAM; 32 dynamically-assigned voices; over 20 CD-ROM libraries of sounds available.


Contacts

Bluepoint: (Contact Details)
Comsol Systems: (Contact Details)
Digidesign: (Contact Details)
Digital Music: (Contact Details)
Et Cetera: (Contact Details)
Gallant: (Contact Details)
Ingram Micro: (Contact Details)
Logitech: (Contact Details)
Metrocom: (Contact Details)
Microsoft: (Contact Details)
Optech: (Contact Details)
Orchid: (Contact Details)
Roland: 0252 816181
Silica: (Contact Details)
Unica: (Contact Details)
Westpoint Creative: (Contact Details)





Previous Article in this issue

Lost in Trance

Next article in this issue

The A-Z of Analogue


Music Technology - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

 

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